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Friday 22 April 2022 | Written by Rashneel Kumar | Published in Sports


League season cancelled
Avatiu Nikao Eels defenders try to stop Tupapa Panther’s Peniasi Dakuwaqa in February. The Eels wanted to continue the 2022 season but the Panthers decided to pull out. SUPPLIED/22021835

Three of the participating four clubs pulled out of the domestic 13s league competition forcing the national federation to cancel their 2022 season.

Cook Islands Rugby League Association cancelled their 2022 season after three clubs decided to withdraw from the 13s competition.

Association president Charles Carlson said: “No doubt the decision comes as a disappointment to the players, including some club officials but the reality is we don’t have control over this virus so we just have to accept it and move on.”

The Avatiu/Nikao Eels have been very vocal to keep the competition supported by the Titikaveka Bulldogs but the Ngatangiia Matavera Sea Eagles, the Arorangi Bears and defending champions Tupapa Panthers decided to pull out of the competition, “citing the safety of their players and especially the risk of not being able to guarantee a full squad for each game due to isolation of players”, Carlson said.

“We explored every option to get the competition back on track. Unfortunately, with the three clubs unable to get their teams together, we didn’t have any choice but to cancel,” he said.

“We do appreciate the support from TMO (Te Marae Ora) and government to make it possible for contact sport to get back on the field but there are still many families out there being infected. We are just thankful we have a 100 per cent recovery rate to date with no serious cases.”

Under the International Rugby League Federation (IRLF) rules, full member nations must have a minimum of four premier team competition with a minimum of six games required to play.

Carlson said since they only played three games this season “the competition is therefore declared null with no winners”.

“Full member nations are also required to have two junior age group (U19s and below) playing in the competition. While the women’s not yet compulsory, this will eventually become a requirement to maintain full membership and the Cook Islands is a full member of the IRLF.”

Carlson said they were very pleased with the development of the women competition “so a bit disappointed this has to end quickly for the season”.

Peggy Matapo, the coordinator of the women's competition, was also disappointed with the competition’s cancellation, especially with the massive support for the women’s game.

“The inclusion of the Avatiu Eels certainly boosted the competition this year,” said Matapo. “We did consider running the women’s competition without the men’s but without the support of the clubs we have to cancel.”

Carlson added: “We did have plans to bring our women’s national coach Rusty Matua as part of our development towards the World Cup but that is not going to happen this year.”

Cook Islands Rugby League will now focus on the Cook Islands Games to be held in October.